This month’s Author Spotlight highlights Mitali Perkins, the author of Hope in the Valley, a middle-grade novel exploring grief, friendship, family, and growing up in a community facing a housing crisis. It’s also received five starred reviews this year!
How would you describe your main character in Hope in the Valley?
Pandita is quiet with a rich interior life fed by stories. Basically, that’s exactly what I was like at her age. Also like thirteen-year-old Mitali, she has two bossy older sisters and doesn’t want to grow up. Last but not least, both of us find solace in writing poetry.
What inspired you to write a book that examines the housing crisis in California?
The housing shortage for the middle class is dire here, and I wanted to examine the roots of the problem. Why and how did so many towns and cities decide to avoid planning for the housing of nurses, teachers, police officers, and firefighters? I’m also fascinated with local politics. Unlike governance on the national and state level, it’s a place were young people can be heard and make a difference.
What was your research process like for Hope in the Valley?
I interviewed people involved with affordable housing, and the history of Silicon Valley’s development, read a ton of books and articles, and visited Sunnyvale’s last working orchard and historical preservation society’s museum. I also spoke to some of my friends with parents who were interned in California’s concentration camps during WWII.
What sort of exploration and learning do you hope this book sparks in classrooms and libraries?
Young people can be involved in the discussion about who will live in their neighborhood, towns, or cities. They can make a difference in the zoning and planning of their communities by speaking up at town halls and meetings. I also hope they learn about the history of their communities, celebrating the good done by people who lived previously on the land and learning about the painful past so as not to repeat it.
It has been quite some time since you wrote a middle grade novel! What made this idea, in particular, perfect for this age group?
A community on the cusp of change, embroiled in painful conflict about how to move forward, seemed like a good metaphor for the threshold of becoming a teenager. I grew up during the time when the “Valley of Heart’s Delight” was becoming “Silicon Valley,” so my memories of being a middle-schooler in the Bay Area are woven into the story.
Tell us about a library, librarian, or educator who made an impact on you as a
child (or as an adult!).
Mr. Hagar gave me a C on my Macbeth paper. A C! I had never received anything other than an A in English. “You can do better than that, Mitali,” Mr. Hagar said, and pushed me until I earned his A — a proud day for me. I’m so thankful for his discernment of my laziness. His gentle prodding and belief in my writing reminds me a lot of my editor, Grace Kendall! A few other teachers and librarians saw and pursued knowing me, despite my introverted reticence to know them, and their delight in my love of stories fueled a desire to write.
What was your favorite book when you were a young reader?
Thanks to weekly visits to the Flushing Public Library in Queens, New York and the Contra Costa Public Library here in California, I was a feral, voracious, multi-storied reader as a child, which formed me into powerful young woman by the time I was in high school. Many of my favorite books are mentioned in Hope in the Valley, and the title is an homage to two of my annual re-reads — Emily of Deep Valley by Maud Hart Lovelace and Rainbow Valley by Lucy Maud Montgomery.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Mitali Perkins has written several books for young readers, including Home Is in Between, Between Us and Abuela, Forward Me Back to You, You Bring the Distant Near (a National Book Award Nominee, a Walter Honor Book, a South Asia Book Award Winner, a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year, and a Shelf Awareness 2017 Best Book of the Year), Rickshaw Girl (a NYPL Top 100 Book), and Bamboo People (an ALA Top 10 YA novel). Mitali was born in India and currently resides in Northern California. She is the author of Hope in the Valley.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Hope in the Valley
On Sale Now!
Hope in the Valley, from National Book Award Nominee Mitali Perkins, is a middle-grade novel exploring grief, friendship, family, and growing up in a community facing a housing crisis.
Twelve-year-old Indian-American Pandita Paul doesn’t like change. She’s not ready to start middle school and leave the comforts of childhood behind. Most of all, Pandita doesn’t want to feel like she’s leaving her mother, who died a few years ago, behind. After a falling out with her best friend, Pandita is planning to spend most of her summer break reading and writing in her favorite secret space: the abandoned but majestic mansion across the street.
But then the unthinkable happens. The town announces that the old home will be bulldozed in favor of new—maybe affordable—housing. With her family on opposing sides of the issue, Pandita must find her voice—and the strength to move on—in order to give her community hope.